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Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

Childhood apraxia of speech is also referred to as developmental apraxia, verbal apraxia, dyspraxia, or pediatric apraxia of speech. Childhood apraxia of speech is considered a motor speech disorder, characterized by difficulty initiating, producing and sequencing the movements of the articulators (lips, tongue, jaw, palate) to make understandable speech. “Praxis” refers to planned and voluntary movements. These children have difficulty planning and carrying out unfamiliar speech activities in a coordinated manner.  The cause of this difficulty is often unknown. This is different than a speech delay. Children that have speech delays are usually developing on a “typical” scale, although at a slower rate. 

In order to produce speech, a child must have a communicative intent and determine the message. The brain must send a message to the articulators regarding the timing, sequence and movements necessary to translate that message. The muscles of the articulators must then carry out the sequence.  Children learn sequences through their practiced attempts to imitate adult’s speech, and they learn from their previous experiences with word approximations. As they repeat sequences, the motor plan becomes automatic and is stored in the brain for future use. Children with apraxia of speech have difficulty initiating, forming or retrieving motor plans to produce speech that is understood by others. At times, children produce a novel word or phrase, but then are not able to repeat it. 

While many speech disorders have characteristics in common, the following are some of the characteristics of childhood apraxia of speech:

  • difficulty initiating speech,
  • reduced quantity and variety of speech sounds,
  • inconsistent errors,
  • vowel distortions,
  • increased errors as length of the message increases,
  • reduced ability to repeat, and
  • prosody differences.

An evaluation by a licensed speech-language pathologist is necessary for a differential diagnosis.

The Northwestern University Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning provides comprehensive evaluation and therapy services on the Evanston campus. Diagnostic evaluations determine the course of treatment, including frequency and appropriateness of individual and/or group therapy.

The Northwestern University Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning is a unique community resource that merges university research and innovative teaching with clinical services. Experts in the field – faculty who are nationally certified and state licensed speech-language pathologists – direct provision of clinical services, bringing exceptional knowledge and experience to our clients.

For more information, contact us at 847-491-3165 or